Kent's top 10 places to go in 2013
Money is tight but no one wants to spend the year
cooped up indoors. So if you want to make sure every penny is well
spent, here are the top 10 attractions you have to visit in
Your carriage awaits
Kent and East Sussex Railway celebrates a milestone in its
history this year, with a new half-mile piece of track laid to
Robertsbridge. When it opens on Saturday and Sunday, September 21
and 22, it will be the first time trains have run to Robertsbridge
from Tenterden since the track was ripped up in the 1960s. The
track will also include a new platform at Robertsbridge. Tickets
for the launch will be on sale from the end of February and will
take passengers in a vintage carriage pulled by one of the
railway’s steam locomotives. Before then, the trains will continue
to run through its 10 and a half mile route through the Rother
Valley from Tenterden to Bodiam. It next opens for one of Thomas
the Tank Engine’s popular visits on Saturday and Sunday, February
16 and 17, 23 and 24 and will be open in between for half term.
Open: Check the website for timetable. Cost: Day Rover fares
£15, seniors £14, children £10, families £42. Address: Kent and
East Sussex Railway, Tenterden Town Station, Station Road,
Tenterden TN30 6HE Contact: 01580 765155 or www.kesr.org.uk
Magic in the air
Undergoing the first phase of a reinvestment programme set to
spruce up the site, when the Hop Farm Family Park opens again for
February half term, children will be taught how to put a few tricks
up their sleeve for those pesky parents at the Hocus Pocus School
of Magic. A favourite is the Country Craft and Food Fair in May.
Fear fanatics will have their diaries cleared for October as the
award-winning Freak Week returns for a third terrifying time.
Although the Hop Farm Music Festival looks like it went ahead for
the last time last year, more events are planned to be announced
soon as the park prepares its 2013 programme.
Open: TBC Cost: TBC Address: The Hop Farm Family Park,
Paddock Wood, Tonbridge TN12 6PY Contact: 01622 872068 or
Talk to the animals
Visitors can see real conservation in attion at Howletts and
Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks.
Run by the Aspinal Foundation - which works to save species from
extinction - these breeding sanctuaries house some of the world's
most endangered animals Here families can learn about the creatures
living there in an interactive way, following clues along the
self-guided trails, which have different themes every month.
The UK's largest herd of African elephants and the world's largest
group of western lowland gorillas live at Howletts. Port Lympne
offers an African safari experience, taking groups out on trucks
through its 600 acres, where giraffe, black rhino, wildebeest and
zebra roam freely, like they would on the plains of Africa. Also
look out for the big and small cats.
Open: Daily from 9.30am to 5pm until Sunday, March 31, then
9.30am to 6pm. Port Lympne open until 6.30pm in summer months.
Cost: A day ticket to Howletts or Port Lympne lasts all year and
costs £23.95, adult concession £22.45, children £19.95, child
concessions £18.45, under threes free. Address: Howletts Wild
Animal Park, Bekesbourne, Nr Canterbury CT4 5EL; Port Lympne Wild
Animal Park, Lympne, Nr Hythe CT21 4PD Contact: 0844 842 4647
Point and shoot
Budding archers can sign up for a longbow archery weekend on
Saturday and Sunday, February 9 and 10, at Godinton House and
Gardens before they open for the season in March. Guided tours of
the Jacobean house are surpassed in grandeur only by the 12 acres
of gardens, surrounded by a yew hedge. National Gardens Scheme days
on Sundays, March 24 and 31, kick off the year’s events, with
Delphinium Week in June one of the most anticipated yearly
horticultural shows in east Kent. Arts and crafts workshops run
throughout the year and the Pantaloons theatre company have made
the estate one of their regular touring venues.
Open: Gardens daily from 2pm to 5.30pm from Friday, March 1
and the house on weekends and bank holidays from Friday, March 29.
Cost: House and gardens £8, children free. Address: Godinton House,
Godinton Lane, Ashford TN23 3BP Contact: 01233 643854 or
The pony express
Pony rides are new for 2013 at Kent Life, which gives families
the chance to get hands on with farmyard animals and reconnect with
the countryside. Guided tours will also run daily at the 28-acre
farm attraction during peak season and there are plans to improve
the gardens. Peppa Pig has been a frequent visitor and the
children’s TV favourite is set to return in March and visitors can
become a farmer for a day in June. The Hops and Harvest festival
will return in September, combining live music with traditional
Kent beer over two days. All-year-round visitors can stroll through
the Kentish Gardens, relive the county’s rural past in the Vintage
Village and get their boots muddy in cuddle corner with sheep,
cattle, pigs and horses plus rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and
ducks for the little ones.
Open: Weekends only in January from 10am to 3pm. Open daily
from Friday, February 1. Times vary. Cost: (until end of January in
brackets) Adults £8.95 (£5), concessions £7.95 (£4), children £6.95
(£3), under threes free. Address: Kent Life, Lock Lane, Sandling,
Maidstone ME14 3AU Contact: 01622 763936 or www.kentlife.org.uk
Described as “the loveliest castle in the world” by Lord Conway,
Leeds Castle has 500 acres of grounds and a moat. Listed in the
Domesday Book as a Saxon manor, the palace was used by Henry VIII
and formerly owned by Lady Baillie, who had guests like Charlie
Chaplin, Errol Flynn and Edward VIII, then the Prince of Wales,
with Wallis Simpson. Tours and hot air balloon flights operate
regularly and visitors can also take lessons in golf and falconry.
The Open Air Classical Concert is set to return in July, hosted by
former Strictly Come Dancing Champion and ex-Tonbridge School boy
Chris Hollins. Open air theatre returns to the grounds every year
and the fireworks spectacular in November is among the best in
Kent. More announcements are due soon.
Open: Daily from 10am to 5pm. Cost: A day ticket is valid
for a year. Adults £19.75, concessions £17.50, children £12.50.
Address: Leeds Castle, Maidstone ME17 1PL. Contact: 01622 765400
The cute factor
Set in 100-acres of farmland, the yearly highlight at the Rare
Breeds Centre is the Easter lambing, where families can cuddle the
newborn animals. An Easter Fun Weekend is planned from Friday,
March 29, to Monday, April 1. A carpet of bluebells in nearby
Poulton Wood, Aldington, can be seen on Saturday, April 27. The
nature reserve hosts an open day on Saturday, June 1. There is a
vintage vehicle rally on Sunday, June 9 and a dog show on Sunday,
July 14. A Harvest Festival is planned for September 14 and 15.
All-year-round attractions include the exotic butterfly tunnel,
petting the animals and the plant nursery, all of which are run
with the help of disabled residents who live on the farm.
Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 10.30am to 4.30pm. From April,
open daily from 10.30am to 5.30pm. Cost: Gift Aid admission £6,
families £28. Address: Rare Breeds Centre, Highlands Farm,
Woodchurch, Ashford TN26 3RJ Contact: 01233 861493 or www.rarebreeds.org.uk
Let us pray
Founded in 604AD by Bishop Justus, Rochester Cathedral is
England’s second oldest cathedral. Daily worship is central to the
building’s existence but there is much to see for visitors. Trained
guides operate tours every day for £4 a head, exploring the
cathedral, telling anecdotal stories and giving information that
could not be discovered on a casual visit. These have to be booked
in advance though. Audio guides are available for £1. A major place
of pilgrimage in the 13th century, the cathedral is also loved
today for its tea rooms, found in the 18th century Deanery. The
gardens are one of Rochester’s best-kept secrets, noted for its
magnolia grandiflora and view across what was originally the
monastic herb garden. There is also the newly restored section of
the Roman wall, dating from 200AD.
Open: Daily from 7:30am to 6pm (5pm on Saturdays). Tours run
from 10am to 4.30pm (2pm on Saturdays). Cost: Free although
donations welcome. Address: Rochester Cathedral, The Precinct,
Rochester ME1 1SX Contact: 01634 843366 or www.rochestercathedral.org
The latest collection
In its first 18 months, the Turner Contemporary on Margate’s
seafront attracted more than 750,000 visitors. With Alex Katz’s two
exhibitions closing on Sunday, January 13 and 20, the next big name
is minimalist sculptor Carl Andre. He is famous for his work,
Equivalent VIII, better known as the Bricks, which prompted a
national debate on contemporary art when it was acquired by the
Tate in the 1970s and was later defaced with paint. A selection of
his sculptures and typed poems from the 1960s and 1970s will go on
show until May, his first UK public exhibition in a decade. At the
same time, the works of visual artist Rosa Barba will go on show,
including a new film installation. Berlin-based Rosa will also
select a series of JMW Turner’s technical drawings to exhibit, made
when Turner was professor of perspective at the Royal Academy,
which he used to illustrate his lectures. Yet the big one which art
aficionados will be waiting for is the major exhibition of
landscapes by Turner, Constable and their contemporaries, starting
Open: Tuesday to Sunday and bank holidays from 10am to 6pm.
Cost: Free. Address: Turner Contemporary, Rendezvous, Margate CT9
1HG Contact: 01843 233000 or www.turnercontemporary.org
Leaders of the pack
Howls of excitement can be heard coming from the Wingham
Wildlife Park staff room. at this small animal reserve specialising
in exotic birds and small animals. Keepers and visitors alike at
this small animal reserve are eagerly awaiting the arrival of five
European wolves. The three males and two females have been brought
together from French zoos Parc Zoologique du Bouy and Parc
Animalier de Sainte-Croix respectively, both of which had a surplus
of animals. They are set to be unveiled to the public any day now.
One of the males is a year old, while the other two are aged seven.
The females are two and three years old. Keepers are itching with
anticipation at the possibility of breeding their own pack. Animal
curator Markus Wilder said: “Only the dominant male and one of the
females will mate as that is how the pack dynamic works. Seven is
fairly old for a wolf but the three males have been a trio since
the youngest was born so it is good that we will be able to keep
them together, as their old zoo had a surplus of males.”
Open: Daily from 10am to 4pm and until 6pm in the summer.
Cost: Adults £11, seniors £10, children £9, under twos free,
families £35. Address: Wingham Wildlife Park, Wingham, Canterbury
CT3 1JL Contact: 01227 720836 or www.winghamwildlifepark.co.uk
- Click here for more What's On news...
- Click here for more news from across the county...